In which I write the Star Tribune

Minnesota’s Fifth District voters are about to elect state representative Ilhan Omar to succeed Keith Ellison in Congress. Rep. Omar appears to have married her brother in 2009 for some dishonest purpose — not necessarily immigration fraud — and undertaken the redundant exercise of divorcing him late last year to keep up appearances. (Speaking to an ignorant if fawning City Pages reporter in November 2016, Omar falsely asserted: “There are particular challenges to getting a legal divorce. One of those is getting the cooperation and presence of the other person who you are divorcing.” Telling the truth does not come naturally to her.)

I reviewed the story as it then was in the September 2016 City Journal column “The curious case of Ilhan Omar” before her election to the state legislature two years ago. The AP’s Amy Forliti retraced my steps last week in “Minnesota House hopeful calls marriage, fraud claims ‘lies.’” Omar declined to provide documents or answer specific questions when pressed by Forliti. Omar wouldn’t even supply Forliti a list of her siblings.

This week PJ Media’s David Steinberg substantially advanced the story in “Official School Records Support Claims That Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) Married Her Brother,” following up on Steinberg’s August 12 report “State Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) Swore to Apparent Falsehoods in Court — While Divorcing Her Alleged Brother.”

A reasonable person might conclude that Omar married her brother in 2009. I am not sure, but that is my conclusion from the evidence available to date. Telling most strongly against this conclusion, however, is the lack of evidence explaining why she did so. I put this point in italics for emphasis.

I think Omar’s apparent marriage to her brother — Ahmed Nur Said Elmi — is a big story. The Star Tribune sits in the heart of the Fifth District. Fifth District readers form the core of the Star Tribune’s readership. The Star Tribune’s Patrick Coolican reported the uproar we had aroused in his August 2016 story “Marriage discrepancy clouds Ilhan Omar’s historic primary victory.”

Omar, by the way, has refused to answer related questions or sit for an interview by the Star Tribune or any other media outlet on the subject. Her treatment of Forliti’s inquiries for last week’s AP story is representative.

The Star Tribune ran Forliti’s AP story, but where has the Star Tribune been on this story for the past two years? Where is it now? Doesn’t Omar’s refusal to talk arouse sufficient interest to do a little digging? David Steinberg has done some digging, but the Star Tribune hasn’t even mentioned either of Steinberg’s two pieces supporting the proposition that Omar married her brother.

Rene Sanchez is the editor of the Star Tribune. He is the guy at the top of the organization chart on the news/opinion side of the business: the top dog, the maximum leader, the majordomo. In advance of the August 14 primary that Omar was going to win, I wondered where the Star Tribune is. Because the Fifth District is one-party territory, the winner of the DFL primary on August 14 would be elected to Congress on November 6. Mr. Sanchez, what’s the story? I wrote him on August 10:

Rene, you may recall that I write for the site Power Line and that I emailed you directly to express some criticism of the Star Tribune two or so years ago. You responded most graciously, inviting me to follow up as I saw appropriate (if I recall correctly). This is a follow-up message.

I find the superficiality of the Star Tribune’s local election-related coverage this year almost unbelievable. I’ve been doing work on Keith Ellison for the past 12 years and on Ilhan Omar for the past two years. The Star Tribune has barely scratched the surface now that they are leading contenders to become Minnesota’s top lawman and Fifth District congressman for life, respectively, after the primary next Tuesday. Outside Minnesota, David Steinberg has dug into Ilhan Omar’s divorce file to see what it might tell us about the bona fides of her marriage to husband number 2. I have written about Ellison’s past support for cop killers. None of this has even been glimpsed in the pages of the Star Tribune. I think you have shortchanged your readers in failing to perform the basic function of a major regional daily newspaper. If you don’t have any sense of this and would like me to document what I am referring to, I would appreciate it if you let me know.

Thank you as always for your courtesies and consideration.

Mr. Sanchez promptly responded:

Quite respectfully, I would quibble with your assertion on superficiality — because I think the record shows a range of in-depth coverage on candidacies and issues. But, as you say, we still have much more to do….And, honestly, there will be much more to come between now and the general election in November, for all prominent races.

I responded:

Rene: My point is that for all practical purposes the election in the Fifth District is next Tuesday and the Star Tribune has contributed approximately nothing. You must know that.

I think the same is probably true of the AG race — Republicans haven’t won an AG race since 1966. I take it that the election is Tuesday. The Star Tribune has contributed nothing….

As any knowledgeable observer would have predicted, Omar won the DFL primary on August 14. I took another whack at it on August 17:

Rene, I wonder if you can give me any idea why the Star Tribune has let the story of Omar’s marriage to husband number 2 rest where the Star Tribune left it two years ago. I have now reread David Steinberg’s [August 12] update on this story for PJ Media several times. He worked on it over a period of months from New York. It is intensely reported. It is documented. It is lucid. The Star Tribune is staffed up. The story is in your front yard and strongly suggests that Omar has engaged in misconduct for some dishonest reason. Yet she simply refuses to answer any questions about it. I really don’t get the paper’s nonfeasance.

I have also been interested in Omar’s attitude toward Israel. She calls it an apartheid regime. In my view, this is a stupid and anti-Semitic lie that would have been of interest to many Fifth District voters. Can she defend the statement? I may have missed it, but I don’t think the Star Tribune has even reported it, though the reporter who covered Omar’s primary victory alluded to it and other such statements she has made. This was too little too late.

When I wrote you last week, you seemed to suggest that the paper had nearly three months before the election to deepen its reporting. When I pointed out for all practical purposes the election was Tuesday, you left me hanging. I really don’t get it. I want to understand. If you would be willing to share your thoughts or expand on your satisfaction with the newspaper’s coverage, I would be grateful.

Mr. Sanchez responded:

We intend to do more reporting on Omar’s candidacy.

I wrote back one more time to make my case again before giving up:

Rene,… I didn’t intend to restate my critique of the stories on which I am critical of the paper’s coverage and noncoverage, but I think I should reiterate they include both Ellison and Omar. On Ellison’s numerous Nation of Islam lies, the Star Tribune has had 12 years to follow up. It would not have been difficult to arrive at a definitive judgment of his lack of veracity. Yet the Star Tribune has taken a pass.

On Omar, the Star Tribune has had two years to dig in to the possible deception, dishonesty and misconduct involved in her marriage to husband number 2. It has taken a pass.

On Omar’s expressed views related to Israel the Star Tribune took a pass this year. Her stated view of Israel as an apartheid state is ignorant and/or anti-Semitic. Beyond that her speech on the floor of the Minnesota House in support of BDS is a matter of public record. If the Star Tribune was to serve its readers and Fifth District voters, the time for taking a look would have been some time before August 14. I know many Fifth District voters do not know and wanted to be informed.

I may have missed some crucial stories published by the paper, but I think the Star Tribune has poorly served its core Minneapolis readers in the case of both Ellison and Omar. I can think of reasons and excuses, but there should be some acknowledgement that the paper hasn’t done the job. I think it owes readers a public acknowledgement and explanation or assessment of its performance that is self-critical in some serious way….

Thank you for your time, your courtesies and your consideration. I know your time is precious and I appreciate your willingness to spend this part of it taking in what I have to say and responding.

I have edited these messages for clarity and focus but otherwise submit them to the attention of interested readers without further comment except this: I think the Star Tribune’s silence is a story all by itself.

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